Remember when: Class of ’41 reunion

Published 12:52 pm Saturday, June 25, 2016

“We’ll meet again, Don’t know where, Don’t know when, But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day…” These are the beginning lyrics of one of the most famous and optimistic songs of the Second World War, a 1939 British song, recorded, sung by, and danced to by soldiers and sweethearts throughout the war.

When the AHS Class of 1941 was graduated in May of 1941, a war in Europe was raging, but the Pearl Harbor attack was another six months away. My mother’s class was the second class to be graduated from the new Andalusia High School on Third Street, the Class of 1940 being the first. There were 26 boys and 31 girls in the Class of 1941. There were very few boys in the classes that followed including ’42, ’43, ’44, and ’45, because, of course, they were in the stages of being drafted, joining, training, or off at war serving their country. On May 30, 1941, the Class of 1941 had no idea what was in store for the coming years. Graduation parties, dances, luncheons, and picnics filled those last school days in May. They enjoyed autographing their Memolusia yearbooks, the last yearbook at the school published until after the end of the war.

Here is an excerpt written by the president of the class, Leland Enzor, “A Tribute to the Seniors” – “Today in all parts of the nation, thousands of fine young men and women filled with plans, hopes, and great anticipation are looking toward new horizons. Within our own community, there goes forth this spring a representative example of the high quality of American Youth – the graduating class of 1941. Seldom has a group graduated with a longer list of credits and accomplishments…On that eventful day in September 1929, an enduring comradeship began in the little wooden schoolhouse on College Street. Under the patient direction of the first instructors, the journey began toward educational achievement…In the days to come, though members of the class of ’41 be scattered by the winds of fortune, there will be unity under the bonds of brotherhood.”

Twenty-five years after war was declared that same year, the AHS Class of 1941 staged their first class reunion in the summer of 1966, some 50 years ago. In studying the biographical information that was gathered prior to the reunion and presented to those in writing in attendance, I was, I won’t say surprised, pleased to compile the following stats on what has been labeled a part of this “greatest generation” on the local scene that may be of interest to the readers.

Four AHS graduates attended Montevallo; four went to Huntingdon; four to the University of Alabama, four to Auburn University; three to Draughon Business College in Montgomery; one to Howard College; one to the University of Tennessee, one to Virginia Tech, one to the University of Texas, one to Birmingham Southern; one to Judson College; one to Brennan Business College in Andalusia; one to Marion Institute after which that student continued on to the U. S. Naval Academy; and three were eventually graduated from the University of Alabama Law School. What a tribute to the Andalusia City Schools and the Board of Education for the fine traditional education offered that paved the way for students to press onward for a higher education.

In 1966 there were 20 World War II veterans who had served and some still serving in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the WAVES. Those military men and one woman had listed their ranks as S/Sgt., Lt., Major, and Commander. Their stations had included Hawaii, the Pacific Theatre, the China-Burma-India Theatre, the Phillipines, and the Solomon and Admiralty Islands. Three of these WWII veterans went on to serve in the Korean conflict and one in Vietnam.

One talented class member, Ella Reid, who grew up on Sanford Road and earned a music degree from Judson College, served as a musician, a pianist, with the USO in Europe during WWII. During the war she sent my mother one of those recorded-on-the-battlefield thin black records of her playing the piano, but it is cracked and split and not playable today. Mother always said she could “tear up a piano!” No wonder she was chosen to travel in war zones, entertain the troups, and use her talent for the war cause! She was not the only Andalusia young woman to leave Andalusia for overseas duty during WWII in the service of their country. Rebecca Darling also served in the Red Cross in France. She was in an earlier AHS class.

The only classmate of these 57 graduates who was killed during the war was Lindsey Padgett, memorialized on the plaque in the front entrance hall at the high school. According to the late Principal James A. Wilson, the young Padgett was never absent or tardy to school in 12 years. It is remembered that his father waved him good-bye down at the Central of Georgia railroad depot and that his casket was shipped back arriving at that same Central of Georgia depot, only one of the many sad local stories of the war.

The occupations of the class members at the time of their 25th reunion included probate judge (Attorney Leland Enzor); Navy ship officer (Commander Alfred C. O’Neal); architect (Donald Fletcher); college physicist (Eugene Brown); associate newspaper editor of Greenville Advocate (Gene Hardin); post office supervisor (Gerald Hooks); head bank teller at Commercial Bank (Ethel Mae Holley); TVA draftsman (Mildred Johnson); NASA industrial engineer (Charles King); social worker (Johnnie Lee King); state policeman at AL State Docks (Abner Little); Lowry Marine boat dealer (Doil Lowry); Andalusia Ford car dealer (Luther Taylor, Jr.); utilities department clerk bookkeeper (Bonnie Meadows); Alabama Textile Products Corporation payroll clerk (Lucille Meadows); U. S. Senate attorney (Dudley O’Neal); civil service engineer (Hayward O’Neal); Jehovah’s Witness missionary (Hesta Parrish); Alabama National Guardsman (Blair Rabren); Alabama attorney (Wilton Rabren); instrumentation manager at Cape Kennedy (Pete Reid); U.S. Air Force officer (Major Fred Saunders); real estate secretary (Mary Ida Smith); aircraft foreman at Brookley AFB (James Stearns); Alatex textile supervisor (Ruby Stewart); business accounting manager for equipment company (Charles Eugene Brawner); Alatex textile worker (Corene Bodie); electrical appliance repair service owner (James Atchison); Huntsville Utilities line foreman (Woodrow Adams); secretary (Margaret Albritton, Vonceil Clower, Mona Lanton); seamstress and upholsterer (Irene Bodie); housewives and homemakers (Martha Baldwin, Marge Brunson, Eloise Dean, Betty Dunn, Raye Dawkins, Doris Everage, Erma Dell Gregory, Mary Ellen Hammonds, Lela Keefe, Elmyra Merrill, Sadie Peters, Ella Reid, Nell Ree Saltz, Kitty Waltman, Mary Frances Ward, Grace Wiggins).

In 1966 contact could neither be made with nor information obtained from several classmates. These included John L. Bryan, Evangeline Campbell, Bobby Dunn, Charles Henderson, Thomas Wall, and Earl Wiggins. One female classmate was deceased, Margaret Tappan. At least one of the 1941 classmates is still living and that is Mary Frances Ward Taylor whose red Ford convertible with whitewall tires pulled up in front of the main school entrance is pictured on the outside cover of the 1941 Memolusia! Her father, Howard Ward, was the Ford dealer at Andalusia Motor Company. If there are others living who read this article, send me word!

This year, 2016, is the 75th anniversary of the graduation of this 1941 senior class at AHS. Other high schools in Covington County had graduates as well in 1941 who went on to participate in WWII, a time in history that will go down in infamy! I could only write on this particular school class since I recently came across this now historical information. These were the children who were born around 1923 who got their start in our hometown Andalusia and in our school system. They became the industrious citizens who worked in the towns they settled in to make those communities better places to live in including Andalusia. The tradition they were a part of continues at the high school today – school plays, honor society, senior night, prom, sports, cheerleading, glee club, band, student council, yearbook staff, school newspaper, and all of the character building activities that prepare students for the real world and a quality life after their “school days, school days, dear ole golden rule days!”

From my mother’s 1941 Memolusia and her high school senior scrapbook, I perused last night the many photos, the newspaper clippings, the programs, the invitations, the calling cards, the autographs which Miss Marjorie Brunson had carefully saved through the years. Little did she know that a daughter one day would treasure her mementos. Interestingly the class motto she recorded was “With the ropes of the past, we will ring the bells of the future.” And they certainly did!

So “As Time Goes By,” I hope you have enjoyed this story that enables us at this time in history to Remember When.